Equity, diversity, and inclusion are critical to ensuring vibrant architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) communities today and tomorrow.
So naturally, EDI had a home at this year’s NASCC: The Steel Conference in Charlotte, N.C., from the exhibit hall to the ever-popular Elevate reception.
As the sun set over the Charlotte skyline, Elevate reception participants celebrated the rise of industry coalitions determined to improve representation in AEC workplaces. The Elevate reception highlighted the work of Professional Women in Construction (PWC), the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the NCSEA SE3 Committee, She Built This City, the SEAONY Diversity Committee, Women in Structural Engineering (WiSE), WE Engage! and Engage ME! UNC Charlotte, the Association of Women in Metal Industries (AWMI), the Coalition for Women in Industry, the National Black Contractors Association, and the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT).
The organizers behind She Built This City, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that recruits youth, women, and members of marginalized communities into skilled trade professions, connected with other honorees and guests at Elevate. Prior to the reception, conference participants had the opportunity to hear from She Built This City at their session on stocking the skilled trades pipeline through intentional community engagement and skills education.
Bringing more women into fields like construction and manufacturing begins with encouraging young girls to explore creative spaces they may not have been previously exposed to, says Executive Director LaToya Faustin.
“Our work focuses on building a skilled-trades pipeline,” Faustin said. “It’s about changing the narrative––bringing all new exposure and new opportunities to the communities we serve.”
In her welcoming remarks, AISC Director of Workforce Development Jennie Traut-Todaro shared how Elevate has evolved to be more inclusive since its 2016 inception, and she announced that the NASCC Planning Committee will establish a new subcommittee devoted to increasing the number of sessions focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility across AEC starting at next year’s Steel Conference.
“AISC is always looking for new ideas from our members, our event attendees, and our allies,” Traut-Todaro said. “We all have our own conscious and unconscious biases and can miss opportunities to do better.”
Becky Dolan, international membership chair for AWMI, said she loved seeing everyone at Elevate come together for a shared purpose.
“We’re all in the same storm, even if we’re in different boats,” Dolan said.
Several of the featured groups, including the Black Contractors Association for the Carolinas, AWMI, and IMPACT, also exhibited booths at the trade show.
At the AWMI booth, Dolan engaged visitors in the organization's history, mission, and progress while sharing how to get involved. Since its founding 42 years ago, AWMI has worked to empower women in metal industries by fostering relationships, career growth, educational outreach, and shared knowledge.
“Women needed a support team and there wasn’t one, so they said, ‘well, we’re going to create our own,’” Dolan shared of AWMI’s founders.
Sharing spaces with successful women who also encourage the success of their peers has been a pillar in Cast Connex Vice President Jennifer Anna Pazdon’s career development. Pazdon is a member of PWC, a New York-based national association, in addition to several of the other honored organizations.
“Before I joined, I had never really had female role models in leadership positions,” Pazdon said. “Then suddenly I was in the room with presidents, vice presidents, and CEOs—I finally had role models I saw myself reflected in.”